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This is a guest post by Ayngelina Brogan from one of our favourite travel blogs Bacon is Magic. We didn’t make it to Ecuador so there’s a gap in our vegetarian survival guide series – Ayngelina helps out with this guide to eating in Cuenca.
Some may think it’s odd that some chick with the web site Bacon is Magic would be writing a post about the best places to find vegetarian food but the truth is that even a pork lover’s arteries need a bit of a break.
I have frequented many vegetarian restaurants throughout Latin America and have found some to be amazing and others dismal. In Cuenca, Ecuador many vegans and vegetarians had difficulty eating out, but it was only because they weren’t heading to the right places:
1) El Paraiso
El Paraiso is a local success story. Once a single restaurant shop, they have opened in two other locations around the city. This is a no-frills, order at the cash and then sit down kind of place that is packed from 12-2pm.
The most interesting thing is that almost none of the patrons are vegetarian, they are simply locals who think the food is really good and everything is less than two bucks.
My pick for El Paraiso is the lentil burger, huge plate of salad and fresh fruit juice for $1.70. If you have any room left they have famous fruit salads that are large enough for two people.
El Paraiso is located on the corner of Simon Bolivar and Manuel Vega.
2) Govinda’s Vegetariano
The Hare Krishnas are everywhere and that’s good for vegetarians. Like many other cities in Latin America they have opened a vegetarian restaurant in Cuenca. I was a bit suspicious after a disgusting gluten steak at a Govinda’s in Cali but wanted to keep an open mind.
A bit more expensive than El Paraiso, Govinda’s has a cheap set lunch and menu items for $2-3. Curry isn’t something you see normally in Ecuador so I jumped at the chance to eat the vegetarian version and it was pretty good (see top photo).
Govinda’s is located at Juan Jaramillo 7-27 and Borrero.
3) Cafe Austria
Run by a foreigner, this is not a strictly vegetarian restaurant and is very popular with tourists and local expats who want to eat international food. But familiarity of home comes at a cost as the items are often 2-3 times as expensive as El Paraiso. That said, if you want to head to a restaurant where a lot of English is spoken and you can find vegetarian options this is the place to be.
Cafe Austria is located at Benigno Malo 5-95 and Juan Jaramillo.
Ecuadorians love to eat meat but are very accommodating to vegetarian needs. If you head to a restaurant that doesn’t have what you want on the menu just ask and they’ll be happy to put together a plate with beans. Also don’t forget about the popular locro soup which is vegetarian but not vegan.